We may often hear the phrase health and safety culture, what actually is it, can often be the question?

What is the purpose of health and safety?

It’s not to stop tasks or activities from taking place, but to ensure the health of those who may be affected is protected.

If we’re ensuring the health of those who may be affected is protected, safety should be a natural consequence of that.

Policies, procedures and risk assessments, legally have to be in place but they don’t make the culture and on their own don’t protect the health of those affected.

How many companies have a health and safety policy and risk assessment folder sitting on a shelf or nowadays on a company intranet site, effectively gathering dust?

Some companies will place health and safety as first agenda item for any meeting, is that culture, it may form part of it, or to help disseminate the culture.

Culture

Culture can easily be defined as what the ownership, CEO, MD, Executive Board of the business want to achieve.

This could be:

– Legal compliance
– Compliance to HSE and industry guidance
– Obtaining acredited standards such as ISO45001
– Best practice
– Adherence to corporate social responsibility policy
– Expectation of stakeholders

Ultimately the strategy the business wants to achieve .

Climate

The challenge for any culture is the climate, a management strategy may have been set to form the culture but how is it implemented and embedded into everything the business does.

The following may have been put in place:

– Policies
– Risk assessments
– First item on meeting agendas
– Health and safety committee

As a manager within a business how do you ensure the culture (strategy) you want to achieve is the climate in place?

How often do you walk through the office and see someone sitting at their desks with poor posture?  We may have DSE policy in place carry out DSE assessments, but do we stop and encourage people to sit correctly ie having a proactive conversation?

Do we know what the significant hazards and risk to health are within the business? Do we know what the controls measures are? Are we actively monitoring controls measures are taking place, stopping and chatting to employees about them? When did you last talk to your fork lift driver or office cleaner about the hazards and risks within their roles, were they aware of control measures to protect their health?

Most businesses will have movement of vehicles, parcel delivery vehicles, fork lift trucks, staff car park, are we aware of the hazards with vehicle movements, are sufficient controls in place? How do we know they are working, though no accidents may have been recorded how many near misses occur, when were vehicle movements last monitored by senior management or directors?

Ultimately health and safety culture is the strategy set by senior management, directors or an executive board.

The most important element is does the climate reflect the culture and how do senior management, directors, executive boards members actively monitor the culture they have set is what is happening.

With ISO 45001 now replacing OHAS 18001 the big difference in the two standards is checking to see how actively involved management are in ensuring the culture of health and safety within the business, that it’s not juat a box ticking exercise that a policy or procedure is in place, but management are actively involved.

The HSE do state health and safety should not burden employers in terms of paperwork, but if something did happen would check what paperwork is in place. What the HSE will also check is what the culture (strategy) of the business is in regards to health and safety, and the climate in regards to the culture. So what the business, senior management, directors, executive board says will happen in managing health and safety did actually happen.

For lots of business time pressures may make it difficult for management to be actively involved, Sky Blue Safety Ltd can assist businesses in being the active involvement ensuring the climate towards health and safety is inline with the culture the business has set.

If you require advice or assistance contact Sky Blue Safety Ltd, 01933 812234, neil@skybluesafety.co.uk or via our contact form